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If your small business is looking for ways to streamline operations, update data management, reduce excess email or improve communication between staff members … well, as the saying goes, there’s probably an app for that.
That was the message from presenters Krystal Russell and Colby Keeth, partners with Spectrum Accounting and Spectrum Payroll, during the Chamber’s September 19 edition of Expert Edge.
Their presentation, “Simple Tech Tools for Every Business,” focused on free and low-cost technology options that can help businesses of all sizes improve their day-to-day operations. Many of the tools are mobile-based—and Russell said that’s not an accident.
“Think about your daily life, how you use information, communicate, and where you keep your information,” she told those in attendance. “If you think of something during the day, you use your phone automatically, because that data is reachable. In your business, what are you doing to make that usable for yourself, your employees and your customers?”
Russell said the one piece of software that has improved her life and the lives of her employees the most is Slack, an interoffice communication system. One of the biggest advantages is that it reduces the amount of email required for employees to share information with each other; Spectrum estimates it has eliminated more than 90% of its daily email load.
“Email is a beast … and email is hackable,” Russell said. “Slack gives us more real-time answers and lets me know what is actually important. And it’s available on all devices.”
They added that there are multiple channels available for conversation topics, reducing the amount of unnecessary back and forth, and the ability to set continual reminders about conversations or messages so they aren’t forgotten.
“And it’s free,” Keeth added, though he noted there are paid versions once organizations reach a certain number of users. “Our company still gets everything we need from the free version.”
Another app that has helped Spectrum is Calendly, which helps individuals schedule appointments with clients and business partners. “I send clients a weblink, and it gives them the options of meeting times that are available – it reduces the need to put multiple holds on my calendar,” Russell said.
Keeth said the program, which is entirely web-based, integrates with nearly all calendar and scheduling programs including Google Mail and Microsoft Outlook. There is a free version with limited options or a full-feature version for $8 per user per month.
Of course, with any web-based program, there is one key consideration: security. “These programs are only as secure as your own passwords,” Keeth said.
(Note: Russell and Keeth also discussed LastPass, one of several apps available that helps manage passwords for all your various apps and programs in one place.)